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Headline:Final report on our Subaru Impreza Sti 4Date:07/08/2006   (Click Here for more details).Ourthoughts
Review:Final report on our Subaru Impreza Sti 4  
Well its now a couple of weeks after my noisy silver car (as my kids named it) left my ownership, and a mix bag of emotions it has left me in.

On one side it was the fastest, most fun car I've owned. In the first year of ownership (almost!) it was a brilliant car. I did a fair amount of mileage in it and found it to be a decent car even for long journeys. In fact it's ride was superior to my ALPINA shod mini cooper s works which is a little on the firm side. It also was a comfortable car to drive, even in traffic or worse traffic jams. The sports seats were supportive and the clutch pretty light both help in the later scenario (usually the M40 on Monday mornings).

The handling was great, it had LEDA adjustable suspension which if I'm honest I never changed ! Mainly because I never quite made it onto a track. The suspension was adjusted by turning a plastic wheel on the strut - easy enough on the front where you could turn the wheels to allow access - on the rear things were a little harder, and usually involved a jack or ramp. The wheel had 20 settings and the car ran with the wheel in position (or rather 'click' 6) which was towards the softer settings. Handling was very neutral and tended to understeer, feed in power and you were back to neutral and some crazy cornering speeds. Drifting wasn't that easy to be honest and even with loads of power the car really hung on and so in most cases on the road the rear never strayed out too much. On the odd occasion a wet or greasy road gave me an excuse to push it out, but the car felt totally balanced and similar to the newer Evo cars I've tested over the last few years. Unlike the new Subarus which have definitely lost their real edge.

Performance wise I only tested it with the Vbox once and even then I drop the clutch and didn't redline it. The result was very encouraging and reassured that the car was fast and not subjectively fast (e.g. the noise didn't make it seem faster than it was). In fact it was able to hit 100mph in just over 12seconds 60mph was mid 5 seconds. A bit harsher off the line and revving harder would have pull the number down to 10.x figures. The engine was very felxible too and pull hard throughout the range.

Practicality the car was pretty good - I could fit all three kids accross the rear in booster seats (just), the boot was reasonable. More importantly though the Subaru actually turned out to be pretty economical too - returning an average of 28.5mpg. Given it was never bought or driven to be economic I was pleasantly suprised. In fact out of the three cars I eventually ended up running along with the Grand Espace and Mini it was the best - the espace managing c. 25mpg and the Mini which has improved but still a slightly lower 28.2mpg. I also didn't go through tyres as fast as I was expecting in fact apart from my incident (with a large stone that fell off a lorry which buckled two wheels and caused two punctures) I didn't have to change the tyres and they had plenty of tread yet.

In fact everything was going on swimingly until of course my engine failure in September last year. Nothing dramatic it just expired without fuss on my drive at home. Read more about that HERE in an appropriately named It's dead Jim report. An update from that story is that when I got the car back I was so impressed with the rebuild and brand spankiness of my engine bay I decided to keep the car - albiet with some spouse pressure to contend with.

So at the end of October I got the car back and began carefully running the car in. API perscribes a running process and I followed it to the letter. Even though this was very furstrating, my wife helped by piling on some miles for me. At around 1000 miles the car needed an oil service and I took the car to Scooby Mania - unfortunately their mechanic had emigrated and the new guy didn't seem as clued up, but the oil service only involved a couple of things and so that all seemed to go well. The API regime involved increasing the rpm by 500 every 100 miles and eventually I had the full rev range to play with.

One of the decisions for keeping the car was that I would definitely take it on the track. And so around the end of February the running in had been completed to the letter, and I was eyeing up a track event at Donnington. I wanted to make sure the car was running well and hadn't really push the car since the rebuild so I decided to have a journey out to push it a bit more. An here the story takes its final and most painful twist. For about twenty minutes later I was sat in a pub car park staring at the last traces of smoke that had appeared out of the engine bay. I couldn't quite believe what was happening and hoped to hell it wasn't serious, but deep down already knew it was. As a member of the AA I rang and reported the issue - 20 minutes sir.

Twenty minutes came and went and still no yellow van. One hour later and the van arrived - the man didn't seem to have much clue, certainly wasn't in a position to fix the car and couldn't move it either. Another man was needed and this one took a further two and half hours to arrive with his big lorry. Not a good result for me or the AA. Next issue was where to take the car - the AA wouldn't take it all the way to API - and the guy didn't think it sounded terminal - So I decided to take it to Scooby Mania - they were in absolutely no doubt - it's they said in unison.

All this meant back to API under warranty - parts warranty that was. Which meant I had to pay for the labour and that I was far from being a happy chappy and also had a far from happy wife. The fix was done very quickly but the cause was a bit of a mystery - I held out refusing to pick the car up until they'd worked out the cause. In the end the power engineering ECU was blamed and this was removed and the original one put back in the car.

The car finally got delivered back on the first of May and I had already made the decision to sell it. I'm not mechanically minded, and didn't have time to learn / try and the car obviously wasn't going to be an easy ownership proposition - I also now had three cars which had never been the intention.

Next came the shock of the cars market value - I bought the car for 10k in 2004. So naturally I was expecting the car to be worth 7-8k and sure enough an number of like cars were advertised on Autotrader at this price. I decided to offer the car at 6750 and waited for the phone to ring - in fact I did a lot of waiting. Not even a scammer rang - oh dear. Next stop was ebay - This attracted far more attention but bidding stop at only 4,700. Although I did get someone coming after the auction and was willing to pay my reserve - but decided not to. I relisted the car with a buy-it-now of just 5k and ended up with two people wanting to buy it. One came to look and one just clicked buy-it-now and snapped it up.

They came up on Friday morning to get the car and I strangely numb about it. I still think the car looked good, still remembered it drove well but the engine issues had taken away any attachment I felt for the car. I just hope the new owner enjoys the car and doesn't suffer any faults.

Depreciation then was a whopping 50%. Costs can be found HERE - the headline cost though is not on there and includes depreciation and that works out at 1.18 / mile.

Broken down:

Costs (Servicing / Tyres / Rebuilds): 6164 - 47p /mile Petrol : 2002.48 - 15p / mile Insurance : 2235.41 - 17p /mile Depreciation : 5000 - 38p /mile

So would I recommend buying an old Subaru ? Well I bought it off a friend and trusted that would be a low risk strategy. Obviously that wasn't the way things turned out. Buying off someone you don't know at all - I guess if you know what your doing and research well you might be ok. If your feeling a little uneasy about this report, I'd leave it and look at something else. Would I do it again, perhaps not - but ask me when my memory is a little vaguer and you might get a different answer.

All in all not the cheapest ownership experience, but definitely not a dull one.

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